Yachtmaster, James Stevens answers the question of whether to push on or divert with a seasick crew onboard
Should you divert or push on when you have a seasick crew onboard?
Mike owns Petrel, a modern 12m yacht and is on a passage across Cardigan Bay from Fishguard in Pembrokeshire to Pwllheli in North Wales.
Petrel is making good progress in a southwesterly Force 4 wind. Mike has persuaded two of his friends, who are both complete novices to sailing, to join him as crew. He assured them it would be an easy 60-mile trip, taking no more than 10 hours at a steady 6 to 7 knots.
The first part of the passage was wind against tide and the choppy sea has taken its toll on the literally green crew, who are suffering badly from seasickness. Both are huddled in the cockpit while Mike is sailing the boat singlehanded.
Mike has closed the shore a little and is considering the possibility of entering Aberdovey to give the crew a break – he knows that once the yacht is in calm water they will quickly recover.
Article continues below…
The 10 common mistakes..and how to avoid them. We ask the experts about the skills every good skipper should have…
What is the best course for the fastest passage across the Channel? James Stevens answers your questions of seamanship
An added complication is that the forecast just received is for a southwesterly Force 4 becoming westerly Force 7 to 8 later.
Aberdovey is 14 miles to the east and the flood tide is favourable for crossing the harbour bar by the time they arrive. The chart shows visitor moorings close to a quay by the town on the north shore.
Pwllheli, which has a sheltered marina, is about 22 miles to the north with a fair tidal stream and is accessible at any state of the tide, but the approach is not recommended in strong east to south-west winds.
Would you continue to Pwllheli or take the decision to divert to Aberdovey?
James Stevens answers:
It would be possible to enter Aberdovey in a southwesterly Force 4 and a flood tide but once the wind increases to Force 6 most harbour bars including Aberdovey are hazardous, especially on the ebb.
It is therefore only a possibility on the flood after half tide. Careful pilotage in this scenario would be needed.
The main problem with Aberdovey is that the moorings are very exposed to the west, particularly at high tide, so the seasick crew are not going to experience the welcome relief of a calm harbour.
When the wind freshens later (in 12 hours), it might not even be possible to get ashore, so a miserable night awaits, secured to a very uncomfortable mooring buoy. It would not be dangerous, but your novice crew would still be seasick.
The best option on this occasion is to continue to Pwllheli with the fair tide, for another three hours or so. The southwesterly Force 4 wind would be safe enough for the entry. The wind is forecast to veer to the west as it freshens, so the entrance will still be accessible in a stronger wind.
Taking a novice crew straight out on a 60 mile passage, however, is ambitious. If at all possible it is better to start on the first day with a modest trip, maybe coming back to the same harbour, with an early finish.
Most beginners feel a bit queasy on the first day, but the majority will improve as the voyage progresses.
Enjoyed reading this?
A subscription to Yachting Monthly magazine costs around 40% less than the cover price.
Print and digital editions are available through Magazines Direct – where you can also find the latest deals.
YM is packed with information to help you get the most from your time on the water.
- Take your seamanship to the next level with tips, advice and skills from our experts
- Impartial in-depth reviews of the latest yachts and equipment
- Cruising guides to help you reach those dream destinations